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Finally, You'll Get to Say Who Visits You in the Hospital Posted: May 14th, 2010

By Kathryn Vercillo

Kathryn Vercillo is a full time freelance writer/blogger with nearly 10 years of writing experience. She has authored two books and contributed to many other print publications.

President Barack Obama has requested changes from the Department of Health and Human Services that may make a big impact on hospital stays.

Frequently, hospitals only allow patients to receive visitors who are immediate family members. This can have negative consequences for many types of people, especially in this day and age when so many have relocated far away from immediate family. Instead, many rely on a close network of friends and extended family members for assistance when in need. The new rules may allow individuals to tell hospitals who they want to grant visitation to and can even designate a non-relative to make medical decisions on their behalf, a change that has been long awaited by many groups of people.

Consider the ways that the following people are negatively impacted by the current hospital visitation rules:

  • Childless widows and widowers. Often childless widows and widowers enter the hospital late in life and are not allowed any visitors to comfort them because they have no immediate family left
  • Members of religious groups whose beliefs are not supported by family members. They may wish to have a religious friend help to make medical decisions that align with their beliefs, but current regulations leave those decisions up to family members
  • Gays and lesbians. Current rules prohibit lifelong partners from visiting the hospital because they aren't legally married. Children in these families may also be affected by these rules
  • Mixed families. Stepparents who haven't legally adopted their partner's children, long-time live-in partners who aren't married and other types of modern families are currently excluded from hospital visits
  • People who are estranged from their families. For example, children who grew up in foster care and are now on their own living with a close network of friends

Under the new rules requested by President Obama, each of these groups would be able to designate those who can visit them in the hospital and those who are allowed to help make medical decisions on their behalf. Not only can this provide you with more comfort during your hospital stay, but it also gives doctors better access to your medical history and wishes because you are more likely to have those closest to you on your visitor's list. Any hospitals that receives patients with free health insurance, like Medicare or Medicaid, would be required to follow these new rules. The new rules are being drafted by the Department of Health and Human Services and should be reviewed by the president within the next six months.